During the first 48 hours, they insisted on serving us in the Lido under the guise of protecting us from germs. I suspect it had more to do with doling out the food to save the cruise line money. They dropped the habit when we arrrived at Aruba and brought on all new germs. During this time, they were constantly out of stables: decaf coffee, regular coffee, tea, sugar, etc. I finally asked an officer if anyone had told them we were coming on board and if they were prepared for us. He replied that they were, but hadn't had time to unpack the food they have brought on board. I think that was because all the waiters were standing there handing us small juice glasses of liquid to keep us from overdoing it. It seemed very cheap on the cruise line's part to bar us from the food and drink.
In the dining room the service and food were both awful. The food was bland; suitable for a nursing home, not a cruise. Nothing had any taste to it! The desert with half a pear in it, for instance, had three small slivers of pear in it only an inch long and a quarter inch wide. The pasta with cilantro had no cilantro in it. We ordered ribs and got slabs of meat that didn't resemble ribs in anyway; there were no bones in the ribs. Often the description didn't even vaguely match what was served.
Twice, it took more than 30 minutes to get our entree after being served the appetizer and salad very quickly. One man walked out after waiting a long time and went to the Lido to get something to eat. When I asked an officer why it was taking so long, he replied that we were being served in European dining style. It found that ironic since we were in Central America and no one was European. It was a lame excuse to try to cover for problems in the kitchen.
Holland America caters to an older crowd and that's what you get on their cruises! People are on walkers, scooters, oxygen, and canes. One man told us at lunch that he was dying of cancer and put his head down on the table (to die right there?). Three times during the cruise there were emergency announcements asking the stretcher crew to show up at different room numbers. Since everyone was so sick and feeble, the whole place shut down at 9:00 PM. The entertainment director and deck attendants spent more time keeping everyone vertical and off the floor than playing at anything. It was really sad.
If you are old and want someplace to fit in, then Holland America is for you! You can hang out with other old people all complaining about everything. But if you are still breathing and can handle standing alone without assistance and want a little flavor in your food, go with anyone else. This is not the cruise for you.
One final note: we booked an inside cabin for $800/pr. Usually we book directly with the cruise line. About a week after we booked the room, Holland America dropped the price on verrandas to $630/pr. We weren't able to negiotate much with them and only got upgraded to an outside room. Our experience with other cruise lines is that if you book early and they drop the price, they will give you the lower price if you ask for it.